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Ofcom to conduct review of Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes
Wednesday 27 July 2005 14:48:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Ofcom has issued a press release, announcing the start of a consultation period when it will take feedback on a number of proposals that may see change in how complaints within the telecommunications industry are handled.

Any ISP that provides a service to consumers or small businesses should be subscribing to one of the Ofcom Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes (ADR Schemes). The Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to ensure that every public communications provider in the UK provides access to a dispute resolution procedure. Two schemes exist and are approved by Ofcom, The Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and The Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman (Otelo).

The schemes are not intended to handle the everyday faults that can occur, but rather take over and act as an intermediary when faults or issues are not resolved to a customers satisfaction, and the provider is failing to make any further progress.

The Ofcom consultation is to seek recommendations on what communication providers should do, notably:

  • Improve the procedures they use to handle complaints. For example, providers need to make customers aware of their complaints Code of Practice. This should be accessible via company websites and / or on customer invoices;
  • Ensure that staff who deal with customers are trained to handle complaints and to apply those procedures;
  • Make customers more aware of the role that ADR schemes can play in dealing with unresolved complaints;
  • Record any expression of dissatisfaction as a complaint, regardless of how it was communicated and whether or not the provider thinks it is justified.

The consultation process is set to last until 5th October 2005, so do not expect any changes for some time, but does reflect the concerns of what appears to be a growing number of complaints, which with the increasing complexity of the market place are unlikely to subside.

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